RINGGOLD, Ga. - A Catoosa County jury will start deliberating today over whether to convict Brian Colby Davenport of killing his girlfriend.
Davenport, 49, is charged with shooting Debora Lynn Abney in the back of the head on a remote stretch of Taylors Ridge Road on March 11, 2016, after the two attended a hearing about the custody of their two daughters. Davenport said Abney killed herself, but the Catoosa County Sheriff's Office charged him with murder after he gave conflicting stories while trying to explain why the .38-caliber revolver had mud in the barrel when he said she shot herself in the car.
On Thursday afternoon, defense attorney Sean Lowe and Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit Assistant District Attorney Chris Arnt made their closing arguments to the jury.
Lowe said that Davenport's claim that Abney shot herself in the passenger seat of his car while they were parked made sense. He pointed out to the jury that Abney battled drug and alcohol abuse. Medical examiners found a small amount of methamphetamine in her system, and her blood alcohol content was about three times the legal limit to drive.
Lowe also said Abney struggled from a mental health disorder. One of her daughters had previously testified in a court hearing that she had complained of ghosts trying to "get her." Also, she sometimes referred to people in her life as demons.
"We're talking about a woman struggling with many issues," Lowe said.
But, Arnt countered, "There's only one truth. The defendant told many versions of the same story, none of which is true."
In the hours after Abney's death, Davenport met with Catoosa County Detective James Stockard. At first, he told Stockard that he was behind the car when he heard a gunshot and found Abney dead in the passenger's seat. About an hour later, upon learning that crime scene investigators found mud in the barrel of the gun, Davenport tried to explain how the gun became dirty if Abney had shot herself in the car.
He told Stockard that the gun somehow flew out the window after Abney pulled the trigger. Panicked, Davenport supposedly put the gun back in her hand so people wouldn't think he pulled the trigger. Stockard said he doubted a gun would fling out a window on its own, and Davenport changed his story again.
This time, Davenport said he took the gun from Abney when she shot herself because he wasn't thinking straight. He dropped the gun on the ground. Then, he put it back in her hands.
But Arnt told the jury that account didn't make sense, either. No matter who pulled the trigger, the gun should have had blood on it. Instead, investigators found only dirt. Arnt said Davenport cleaned the gun to cover his tracks.
"The scene was manipulated by him," Arnt said. "He just didn't do a very good job."
Lowe argued that while Davenport did move the gun, that doesn't mean he fired any shots. He moved it out of instinct, Lowe said, and he lied about it to a detective because he knew how his actions made him look.
Before closing arguments, Lowe called to the stand Chris Robinson, a crime scene consultant. Robinson said he has worked hundreds of suicides, and sometimes the deceased does in fact shoot himself or herself in the back of the head.
"Is it possible that Debora Abney shot herself?" Lowe asked.
"Yes, it's possible" Robinson said.
But, Arnt later pointed out to him, "it would have been real difficult."
"In the realm of unlikely," Robinson said.
Davenport faces charges of malice murder, felony murder, aggravated assault, two counts of making false statements, two counts of possession of a firearm in the commission of a crime and two counts of tampering with evidence.
Contact staff writer Tyler Jett at 423-757-6476 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @LetsJett.